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Questions of trust and responsibility

How well do you know your MP? Do you trust her or him to represent you in Parliament? These were key questions in Tuesday’s debate on the recall of MP’s Bill. This would give voters the right to force a by-election if your MP behaved badly. Currently you could only do that if the MP is jailed for 12 months. This Bill would allow 10% of the constituents signing a petition to force a by-election, but 60 MPs want that number to be cut to 5%.

David Cameron proposed a recall Bill during the 2009 expenses scandal and included it in the 2010 Conservative manifesto. Labour MPs supported the Bill at Second Reading but there is concern that the measure could be used by well-funded interests to unseat an MP challenging them.

The Bill could be seen as a first step in restoring respect for Parliament and reducing cynicism about politicians.

A recent poll found only 24% who trusted their MP to faithfully represent them. This contrasts with 86% of MPs who think they are trusted. Trust is easily lost and hard to recover but is an essential factor in parliamentary democracy. Low turnout in elections is a sign that action is urgently needed. This Bill might help but we voters also have a role. That includes regular prayer for our MPs. To do that it helps if we know at least a bit about them. Their websites and constituency surgeries are means of acquiring this.

Do you have children or grandchildren? If so, do you expect their schools to teach them about sex and relationships or is that a family responsibility? This question was the subject of another debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Diana Johnson MP introduced a Bill requiring the Education Secretary to ensure that all children receive high quality sex education at school. She recalled the numerous cases of child abuse and the evidence that thousands of people access child abuse images online. She also pointed to the scathing comments from young people about the poor quality of sex education they had received at school. Her conclusion is that the sex education we give to our children needs overhauling. A Mumsnet survey revealed that a high percentage of parents agrees and want compulsory sex education in all primary and secondary schools.

Philip Davies MP opposed the Bill. He agreed there is a massive problem but noted that there had been sex education in schools for 40 years and there are now more teenage and unwanted pregnancies than ever. He also pointed to experience in Italy which has very little sex education in schools and low levels of teenage pregnancy. His argument is that sex education is a parental responsibility not the State’s. He said it is his job to bring up his children with his values, not a teacher’s job to instil their values.

Whichever side we take in this debate, we can pray for both parents and teachers to do all they can to teach and protect our youngsters from sexual exploitation.

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